Airfield Models - Fuselage Construction Example

Adding the Upper and Lower Decking to a Model Airplane Fuselage

May 03, 2015

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Airfield Models ( the Upper and Lower Fuselage Decking

Adding the upper and lower decking to the fuselage brings it close to completion (structurally).  Once this sheeting is in place the fuselage should be very rigid.  That means the fuselage will stay how you've built it straight or warped forever.

Sand the areas where the decks will be added so they are flat to make a neater seam and use less glue. Sand the upper aft portion of the fuselage flat to receive sheeting.  I have a jumbo sanding block specifically for tasks like this.
The upper deck is left over-size so that it can be trimmed and sanded to a pefect fit. Put the sheeting in place.  I allow overlap all the way around so that the sheeting can be sanded flush.  It is simpler than trying to get it to align perfectly and gives a neater end result.
Use weight to clamp the decking in place while it dries. Glue the sheeting in place and weight or pin it in place with the fuselage still pinned to the board.  This is important to prevent the fuselage from shifting and losing its symmetry.

If for some reason the fuselage warps at this point, then your choices are to remove the sheeting and try again or to live with a warped fuselage.  Personally, I would remove the sheeting, but I would rather take the time to get it right in the first place.

Trim and sand off the excess decking.  Do not finish sand at this time.

Plane and sand the sheeting flush with the fuselage sides.  This is not a finish sanding.  It is only to remove the excess sheeting so that it does not snag items on your workbench and get damaged.

The wing mounting bolt blocks being glued in place.  A good fit and plenty of clamping pressure will ensure maximum strength. At this point I added the wing bolt blocks and mounted the wing.
The top, forward decking glued in place. The forward deck sheeting is done in the same manner as the aft deck.
Weight is again used to hold the decking while it dries. Again, I like to use weight whenever possible.  It provides more evenly distributed pressure than pins or tape and does not leave holes in the wood.
The lower decking is almost always arranged so the grain crosses the fuselage.  Fit the pieces first before gluing them in place. After the upper deck sheeting has dried thoroughly the fuselage should be very stable.  The bottom sheeting is glued on with the grain running across the fuselage.  The opposing grain of the top and bottom sheeting stiffen the fuselage tremendously.

True the edge of the sheet before cutting the blanks.  Cut blanks for the widest portion of the fuselage first and work your way to the narrowest.

Plywood is used instead of balsa in the radio compartment area.  This is for two reasons:

The landing gear will be mounted in this area and repeated work in the radio compartment during the lifetime of this aircraft will take its toll on the fuselage bottom.

A thin bead of glue is all that is necessary to glue the sheeting in place.  Excess glue makes sanding more difficult and adds unnecessary weight. Be sure you have all the sheeting prepared before you begin gluing it in place.  Start by gluing the plywood sheet in place and work your way to the rear.  If the forward fuselage is also flat then you can glue that sheeting on as well.

If the bottom of the fuselage is not flat, then you will have no choice but to use pins, clamps and tape to hold the sheeting in place.

The tail wheel mounting plate is masked off. The area for the plywood tail wheel mounting plate is masked.
This fuselage has a flat bottom so it can be weighted to a flat board while the lower decking dries.  Otherwise the sheeting must pinned, clamped or taped in place. Put the fuselage on a flat surface and weight it down until it is dry.
The forward lower decking is taped in place while it dries. Add the lower forward sheeting.
Small punctures in the wood to receive epoxy.  These spikes will increase the strength of the tail wheel mount. To help strengthen the tail wheel bracket mounting plate, I have punched shallow holes in the area using a toothpick.  Smear epoxy over the area forcing it into the holes.  Squeegee off the excess and put the plate in place.
The tail wheel mount clamped in place. The plate is clamped in place.
The tail wheel bracket mounted to the plywood plate. Sand the plate flush with the fuselage sides.  Now is as good a time as any to mount the tail wheel bracket.  The tool I use for drilling small holes is a pin vise.  It gives better control than a drill with much less chance of damage to the work from the tool slipping.


How to Build a Straight Fuselage
Making the Engine Compartment Cut-Out and Shaping the Nose

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Copyright 2003 Paul K. Johnson